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A New Year message

WHICH PLACE RINGS in the New Year first? The traditional answer: The Line Islands attached to the Republic of Kiribati. The New Year reaches these atolls 8.5 hours ahead of us and almost a full day ahead of New York. But I know of a place which rings in the New Year many days before the world does so: The newsroom of your favourite newsmagazine.


I am writing this letter on the third day of 2024, but the last issue of THE WEEK was dated January 7, 2024. Technically, we stepped into 2024 in the last week of December 2023 because THE WEEK uses the pull-date style to mark issues. It is not the date of publication, but the date on which the magazine will be ‘pulled’ from stands and replaced with the latest issue. So, we have been doing this bit of time travel since 1982, and what is even better is that we have been doing it together with you, dear reader!


This issue of THE WEEK comes to you ahead of the politically, culturally, and religiously significant consecration of the Shri Ram Janmbhoomi Teerth Temple. And, as always, THE WEEK has attempted to bring you a comprehensive look at the holy city before the grand event of January 22. The main article by Senior Special Correspondent Pratul Sharma is about how the BJP is reimagining India through a civilisational lens, against the backdrop of the consecration. Senior Special Correspondent Puja Awasthi writes about the change sweeping through Ayodhya, and like everything in life, the taste is bittersweet.


We also look beyond our borders through Deputy Chief of Bureau Namrata Biji Ahuja’s article on Taiwan’s upcoming elections and how voters there look at it. Her in-depth article is peppered with interesting information like what tour guide Vincent Chiang, 58, shared: “Even though Taiwan is full of mountains and beaches, those were out of bounds for a long, long time under martial law. A lot of people of my generation can neither swim nor go hiking even today. Isn’t it ridiculous?” Why? Well, the answer is on Page 21.


Cat lovers would love the bit about the Democratic Progressive Party leader who is affectionately called the cat warrior. Former de facto ambassador to the US Hsiao Bi-khim is a cat lover, and her four felines have reportedly influenced her political strategy.


Deputy Chief of Bureau Mandira Nayar takes us into Jhumpa Lahiri’s Roman Stories, her second book in Italian. Lahiri makes an interesting remark about switching to Italian, “a language that is comparatively less trafficked on a global scale”. Trafficking denotes a certain violence, and it was interesting to see that nuance or layer being added to describe a language.


Coming back to Ayodhya, the message that struck me deeply came from chief priest Netraja Prasad Mishra of the Nageshwarnath Temple, “Don’t forget that this is a city which did not even belong to its most beloved king.” Mishra was pointing to the literal meaning of the name—a city that can never be won over—and how Lord Ram himself was away as a student, and then as an exile, before the waters of the Saryu embraced him and he joined his dearest in the afterlife. I have a feeling that Mishra was not only referring to Ayodhya itself but also to the illusion of conquest that lives within all of us.


If Ayodhya can remind us of the impermanence of our lives and guide us to be more generous, kind and loving, there could not be a better message to start the new year with, dear reader.